Writing a Well-Organized Classification Essay

Classification Essay

We are often inundated with vast quantities of information. All at once, this can boggle the mind so we cope with this by organizing the information into various groups and dealing with them one by one. A classification essay follows a similar process. So this would have elements of a critical essay as well.

Classification is done on a certain basis or principle. Before writing this type of essay, you must ask yourself some questions:

  • On what basis am I classifying the information?
  • What will this classification achieve?
  • Why is this type of classification useful or better than other methods?

The basis on which you classify depends on the purpose of your essay. For instance if your essay deals with different forms of government then you can classify them on the basis of freedom to elect the leaders or the number of ultimate decision makers. Begin by outlining the answers to these questions in your introductory paragraph, essentially laying the foundation for the essay.

The categories or types of classification in an essay can be structured in a way such that diametrically opposed systems are considered – like dictatorship and democracy- and/or such that one type is an extension of the other –like monarchy and oligarchy. Quote relevant examples to distinguish one category from another in classification essays. You can use the techniques employed in a comparative essay to do so.

Often there are examples that do not fit well-established definitions or concepts. Nevertheless they can be important and you must develop a new category to include them if it enhances the depth of your essay. For instance in an essay on economic systems, the present-day Chinese economy cannot be ignored, though it is neither purely communist nor capitalist. Don’t leave an example out just because you aren’t sure where it fits in. Similarly, while China has a dictatorial one-party system, it gives its local governments considerable autonomy in decision-making, necessitating a new category to define it.

At the same time, don’t ramble. If your article is on economic systems and you quote the China example then elaborate its features rather than the country’s growth rates or government systems. Remember, you aim to make the topic lucid for the reader, so don’t confuse him/her with out-of-context information.

An interesting classification essay type is one which asks you to rate objects, say movies on the basis of truest adaptation of novels. Then not only does the writer have to outline the various categories, he/she must also explain the logic of placing certain movies in their respective categories. Take this example of essay writing, “There have been various adaptations of Jane Austen’s novels, ranging from the Alicia Silverstone starrer “Clueless” to Keira Knightley’s “Pride and Prejudice”. There is something about Austen’s characters that lends itself to versatility in their portrayal. Place Keira Knightley’s and Greer Garson’s films side-by-side and you would find it difficult to conclude that that are portraying the same Elizabeth. While the Garson version modified the story to suit the audiences taste…”

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